The show must go on
By KRISS NELSON
DES MOINES – The 2019 World Pork Expo might have been canceled, but there was still plenty of action going on at the Iowa State Fairgrounds last week despite the international show’s absence.
The Exposition Open and Junior Swine Show, known simply as The Exposition,went on as scheduled, bringing vendors, exhibitors and spectators to Des Moines from throughout the country.
The 2019 World Pork Expo was canceled due to a potential threat of the African swine fever disease making its way to the United States.
“Back in early April the National Pork Producers Council made the decision to cancel the 2019 World Pork Expo that has always been held in Des Moines in the first week of June,” said Cassie Godwin, social media coordinator and Seedstock EDGE editor for the National Swine Registry. “That decision was made out of an abundance of caution to protect and ensure the safety, success and long-term health sustainability of the U.S. swine industry,”
Godwin said the National Swine Registry, Certified Pedigree Swine and the American Berkshire Association moved forward after that decision to cancel the 2019 World Pork Expo was made. They decided to continue holding their open and junior livestock show that has always been held in conjunction with the World Pork Expo.
“Those three organizations still came together to host a live hog show, and after working very closely with the Iowa Department of Agriculture and the state veterinarian and the National Pork Board, we were able to determine it was still very safe to have the event,” she said.
Each year, the World Pork Expo puts the state on the international map with visitors coming from all over the world. And there’s a reason it is held in Des Moines.
“Obviously, Iowa is pork production central and everyone loves coming to Des Moines for a live hog show in early June,” said Godwin. “It is kind of the highlight of everyone’s show pig season calendar. It’s kind of the Super Bowl of our events for the year.”
In addition to the live hog shows, The Exposition brought learning opportunities for the exhibitors.
“We have had so many clinics and workshops about biosecurity and we are really teaching these young breeders and young exhibitors, who are going to grow up and become swine producers and raise pork, about biosecurity, herd health and the importance of it, the necessity of it,” said Godwin. “We have had all of these initiatives throughout the week that are shedding light to the importance and also the very practical steps to biosecurity.”
She added the National Swine Registry, Certified Pedigree Swine and American Berkshire Association not only hosted The Exposition, but worked alongside the National Pork Board to create video content, flyers, pamphlets, various communication materials and even an app to give to the attendees regarding the subject of biosecurity.
“The kids are getting really engaged,” she said. “We have a biosecurity game on our app that the kids are playing that you get points for questions and they’re going to get prizes.”
Godwin said they have worked hard to try to take anything that can still be fun and put it into an educational form.
“It is very, very practical information,” she said. “It literally breaks it down step by step of things that you need to do both for during and after the show to uphold your biosecurity practices and ensure they are the most thorough possible to protect your herd health of your farm and the herd health of the swine industry as a whole.”
African swine fever or not, Godwin said education has always been a main component of the National Swine Registry.
“We always say we use these pigs as a tool to really educate these exhibitors, showing them leadership capabilities and work with them on becoming leaders within their community,” she said. “That is always been a mainstay for the National Swine Registry and the National Junior Swine Association. We always try to take our shows a step beyond just a show and incorporate education, but this week, even more so.”
She added it has been very gratifying seeing how many organizations came together to sponsor the educational clinics and help to provide hands-on materials.
“An event like this takes an unimaginable amount of people and work and all of that has been done,” she said. “And even more so, we have all gone a step further to add this extra level of education to it.”
Despite the cancellation of the 2019 World Pork Expo, Godwin said she was very impressed with the numbers of exhibitors and animals that attended The Exposition. This included 2,228 pigs and 932 exhibitors from 29 states.
Although still impressive, the numbers were slightly down from last year’s show.
“The World Pork Expo being canceled is a factor,” Godwin said. “Some families make the long trip because the kids get exposure to the trade show and things like that and obviously, that element isn’t here this year. I would say that’s a small part of it. But if you think about all of the rainfall, so many of our members, both our junior members and senior members, come from ag backgrounds and farming families. We have had so many exhibitors say they are just now able to get to the field and planting is their No. 1 priority, so several families had to sacrifice coming this year strictly because of the weather and planting.”
While there is still the fear of a potential African swine fever outbreak in the U.S., Godwin said the overall mood and attitude of the exhibitors and pork producers was cheerful.
“They are loving the week and loving being together to show hogs here in Des Moines,” she said.
For Taylor Conley, a member of the junior board of directors for the National Junior Swine Association and a student at Iowa State University she has taken on a different role at The Exposition.
A former exhibitor from Pennsylvania, Conley and other junior board members assist with the planning and the day to day operations of the live hog show.
“I grew up showing pigs and grew up with the National Junior Swine Association showing,” she said. “I showed pigs anywhere from Pennsylvania to Georgia, Kentucky and we came here every year for the World Pork Expo since I was about 10 years old.”
“I love coming to Iowa. When people ask why I went to Iowa State University from Pennsylvania, I tell them I love pigs and I tell them if you want to go where the pigs are, you go to Iowa. There’s seven pigs to every person. It doesn’t get much better than that.”
Conley is very thankful The Exposition was held even without the World Pork Expo this year and believes the exhibitors are as well.
“I think the cancellation of the World Pork Expo left a lot of exhibitors in fear,” Conley said. “They had pigs bought. They were ready to go to the show. This is an event they look forward to all year long. Keeping the show intact was really important, specifically for exhibitor morale.”
Brayden Weldon, 16, of Maxwell, was one of the more than 900 exhibitors at The Exposition.
This was the second year he has shown at the event, but has been showing pigs since he was 10 years old in 4-H.
Being in the show ring with his pigs has become a favorite pastime of Weldon’s.
“I just really enjoy showing pigs,” he said. “It’s really fun for me.”
Weldon brought two Hereford gilts and two Berkshire gilts he farrowed on his family’s farm.
His father, Bart Weldon, said he is pleased The Exposition was able to be held this year.
“We are really happy that they still had the show and really felt fortunate that they kept it here in Des Moines and we are thankful that everybody worked as hard as they did to make sure it was still able to be on,” Bart Weldon said. “It’s a great opportunity for a lot of families from all over the country, It is really fun to see all of the kids here and see them working and doing their own thing and making friends.”
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